A 20/20 vision of the future of higher education

Ask any college student what their biggest gripe about Oakland University is and most will say, in addition to parking, it’s the cost of their degree.

Oakland’s website lists the average fall/winter cost of tuition for upperclassmen at $10,540 per semester. That number balloons to $21,946 when room, board and other expenses are calculated.

With collegecalc.org showing a steady tuition increase almost every year, that number will only go up over the course of a four-year degree at Oakland.

Consider this: Student loan debt in the United States has tripled since 2004, now approaching $1 trillion, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The U.S. Department of Education shows students have a 9.1 percent chance of defaulting on their loans two years after college. Three years after graduation, the average rate is 13.4 percent. In simpler terms, one out of every eight student loan borrowers will wind up in default.

These figures are frightening.

However, a group of Democratic Senators has a $1.8 billion idea — the Michigan 2020 plan.

Under the plan, graduating high school students could have their entire college tuition paid for by the state by 2020.

The Michigan 2020 plan, which was rejected in 2012, claims to be fully funded without raising taxes one cent for Michigan residents.

The money will instead be raised by eliminating business tax credits within four years of enactment, based on whether the credit “passes” or “fails” certain criteria. According to the MI2020 website, this could amount to $11.57 billion a year.

Its business model is loosely based off the Kalamazoo Promise Program, which covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees at a variety of Michigan colleges — including Oakland — as long as the student attended high school for all four years at the Kalamazoo Public School District.

Promises are great, as long as they’re not empty.

In 2006, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed Public Act 479, more commonly known as the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

If you’re like us, you know that promise didn’t hold true.

Students were eligible for the $4,000 scholarship if they received scores of a Level One or Level Two on all components of their Michigan Merit Examination. The program was discontinued shortly after implementation due to a lack of funds, and those who qualified for it no longer received the funding.

The group behind Michigan 2020 believes the path to economic growth and recovery lies within providing education. We wholeheartedly agree.

A highly skilled workforce could put Michigan back on the road to prosperity. It could provide valuable opportunities to brilliant students who might not otherwise get the chance.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial board.